Campus exam cheats in US top 70pc

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 July, 2006, 12:00am

Internet copying and pasting on the increase as Google generation have no concept of plagiarism

More than 70 per cent of students in the US have cheated in exams or assignments at one time or another, a survey has revealed.

The study, carried out by the Centre for Academic Integrity - a consortium of nearly 400 schools, colleges and universities in America plus some overseas institutions - quizzed 50,000 undergraduates across 60 US campuses.

A report of the study said internet plagiarism was a growing concern on all campuses 'as students struggle to understand what constitutes acceptable use of web-based sources'.

'In the absence of clear direction from faculty, most students have concluded that 'cut-and-paste' plagiarism, using a sentence or two or more from different sources on the internet and weaving this information together into a paper without appropriate citation, is not a serious issue,' the report said.

'A majority of students [77 per cent] believe such cheating is not a very serious issue,' it said.

Also of concern was the finding that academics and teachers were often reluctant to take action against suspected cheats.

The report said surveys over the past three years of almost 10,000 US academics found that 44 per cent of those aware of student cheating had never reported it to campus authorities. Students suggested cheating was higher in courses where it was well known faculty members were likely to ignore it.

'Studies of 18,000 students at 61 schools, conducted in the last four years, suggest cheating is also a significant problem in secondary school,' the report said.

'More than 70 per cent of respondents at public and parochial schools admitted to one or more instances of serious test cheating and more than 60 per cent admitted to some form of plagiarism.

'Slightly less than half of the respondents from private schools admitted similar behaviour, while about half of all students admitted they had engaged in some level of plagiarism using the internet.'

There is also a problem in Britain where 17 per cent of students told another survey they did not know how to treat material taken from the internet and other sources.

The study, by the Plagiarism Advisory Service at Northumbia University, quizzed more than 3,000 students.

Academic adviser Malcolm Ball, who carried out the survey, told an international conference on plagiarism held in Gateshead, northeast England, recently that the 17 per cent were not sure what they had to do to incorporate other people's work in their own within their universities' rules.

Other academics say many of the 'Google generation' simply have no concept of plagiarism.

Professor Sally Brown, of Leeds Metropolitan University, said today's students were 'postmodern, eclectic, Google-generationists, Wikipediasts who don't necessarily recognise the concepts of authorships or ownerships'.

Plagiarism was rampant in British universities. 'It's probably safe to say plagiarism has always been around worldwide; it's just a lot easier now thanks to the 'Net and Ctrl C, Ctrl V',' she said.

In Australia, an investigation into cheating at universities in Melbourne revealed that almost 1,000 students had been caught cheating over the past two years and hundreds had been expelled, suspended or given other punishments.

Using freedom of information legislation, the Herald Sun newspaper obtained reports from the universities that revealed scores of students had been suspended from their courses while others had been fined as much as A$500 ($2,900) or banned from attending university for up to five years.

Students who were punished included would-be lawyers and medical students studying at the two top universities: Melbourne and Monash.

The economics, business and commerce faculties at both institutions also recorded the highest number of student cheats.

Cheating in examinations included attempts to sneak in calculators, hide notes, store information on erasers or stick it on rulers, and use small mobile phones to call friends outside.

Extra reporting by staff reporter